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Volume 23, No. 5       October 16, 2000

Author of ‘Dead Man Walking’ to Speak at Ithaca College

Helen PrejeanSister Helen Prejean, a two- time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and the author of the book on which the 1995 movie Dead Man Walking was based, will give a talk, "Dead Man Walking: The Journey," on Monday, October 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the Emerson Suites, Phillips Hall. The event is sponsored by the College’s Interfaith Religious Council. Tickets are $3 and may be purchased at the door if seats are available or in advance through Wednesday, October 18, at the Campus Center (from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) or at Catholic Charities of the Southern Tier, 121 East Buffalo Street (during business hours). For more information call Catholic chaplain Mary Humenay at 274-1117.

An ardent opponent of capital punishment, Sister Helen Prejean has been counseling death-row inmates in the Louisiana State Penitentiary since 1981. She has accompanied five prisoners to their executions and witnessed their deaths. She also works with the families of murder victims and is an honorary member of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, an organization whose members have lost loved ones to homicide yet remain opposed to the death penalty. Prejean is the honorary chairperson of Hands Off Cain, an international group based in Rome working for the abolition of capital punishment, and is a member of Amnesty International and the U.S. National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. She is collecting signatures for Moratorium 2000, a group seeking a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty by the end of the year 2000.

Her book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, tells of her experience with a death-row inmate and chronicles the empathy she felt not only for family members of his victim but also for the convicted rapist and murderer himself. The book spent 31 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 1993 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. When the movie based on the book appeared two years later, it garnered four Academy Award nominations, with Susan Sarandon, who portrayed Prejean, winning the Oscar for best actress.

Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 and 1999, Prejean has received numerous accolades for her work, including the Champion of Liberty Award from the U.S. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Sanctity of Life Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1994 Mirabella magazine named her to its list of "100 fearless women."

She has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, the Chicago Tribune, and many other print publications. She has made television appearances on 60 Minutes, the Tom Snyder Show, and the Phil Donahue Show, and was featured on such radio shows as Larry King Live, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, and Fresh Air.

Born in Baton Rouge in 1939, Prejean has lived and worked in Louisiana all her life. She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in 1957 and received a bachelor’s degree in English and education five years later from St. Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans. She taught junior and senior high school students and served as religious education director at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in New Orleans. Her work with residents of that city’s St. Thomas Housing Project led her to establish her prison ministry in 1981.



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Andrejs Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications. 27. Oct. 2000